Though some warn you of the “Terrible Twos,” others don’t realize that a toddler can experience mood swings and temper as early as 1 and as late as 4. Other times, their personality just may simply reflect a defensive nature. This is okay! Don’t forget that by encouraging their strength and stubborn ways may help them in their future by standing their ground when needed.
With that said, when you catch toddlers in a tiff, there are some simple ways to neutralize the environment. Whether it be by distraction or reason, they are simply experiencing “big feelings” they are unable to express fully. Read below, as we have collected 10 ways to neutralize a toddler argument. You’ll want to keep these tips in your back pocket for the next one that will likely arise in 3… 2…
Whether you distract with a toy or a book, allowing the toddler(s) to refocus their energy is pretty key. They are experiencing big feelings. This is completely normal. Age permitting, some may be able to reason when you bend down, looking at eye-level.
However, others may be unable to calm themselves simply by not understanding why they should be expressing their emotions in a more neutral and calm way. Grab a toy or book they love to encourage them to refocus their energy. You’ll be happy they did.
At times, the parent and/or caretaker may have to become a little more hands-on. By looking into the frazzled child’s eyes and encouraging them to follow your lead, redirect them to play another game, perhaps with another child. Feel them out.
It’s important (even when they’re experiencing high-strung emotions) that you respect their comfort level. Never pressure them to do something they don’t want to, within reason. Allow them to pick up another activity or game with someone other than who they were conflicting with. This will allow them to settle their minds.
Age permitting, explaining the situation in another light may help immensely. Toddlers may not be able to understand exactly how they feel, but if the caretaker and/or parent are able to put into words what is going on, it may allow them to reflect on the situation.
Always come between the arguments, whether it’s between you and the little one or other children. Encourage safety and respect, even during arguments. Share with them what is appropriate and explain that how they’re reacting may not be the most respectful and/or appropriate way to express their feelings. Remember, even through the “bad,” these moments are all learning curves—for parent and for child.
7 ASK QUESTIONS
A great approach to neutralize a conflict between little ones is by allowing them to reflect on the situation. Sometimes asking something as simple as “What is going on?” or “How is this making you feel?” allows the child/children to think hard. Taking their minds away from the moment will encourage them to stop their reaction.
By stopping their reaction, you all get what you want. You have a neutral moment for them to answer some pretty simple yet profound questions. Though the answers may bring up continuing arguments, this approach will likely work no matter how many times you need to ask, “How does this make you feel and why is it important to use your words?” They’re smarter than they look, these toddlers.
Whether this is by encouraging them to reflect on their emotions or suggesting what could have been done to alleviate the conflict, as said before: toddlers are much smarter than they look. Though you may have to use very simple and small words, children will understand energy and feelings.
Reflection is an incredibly vital part of life, even during childhood. Checking in to see how and why we reacted is a vital lesson to learn as soon as we experience these "big feelings."
5 REMOVE THE ISSUE
Whether this means actually taking away the toy that two toddlers are fighting over or taking a little one away from a verbal argument, sometimes by removing the “issue” it will alleviate the tension best. Essentially, you just have to do what you have to do!
Especially if the situation heightens and you know it could (or potentially already has) become physical, it’s important to remove the negativity before it escalates. That’s an okay lesson to teach, as well. It’s okay to step away, collect feelings, and regain confidence and mental stability before re-entering.
4 CHANGE THE TODDLER’S PERSPECTIVE
This is a simple trick to encourage little ones to see why the argument began in the first place. By going back to trick #7, a question to add might be, “Why did this begin?” By asking this question, the toddler may be able to see why the other individual included may be acting the way they are.
Even for adult arguments, it’s important to understand where the other individual is coming from. Whether irrational or not, people react for different reasons. Toddlers included. Many times, toddlers are just trying to figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay, especially during an argument. It’s important to try and change their perspective to encourage compassion and sympathy.
3 HUG THEM
If they allow it, hug the child or children. Sometimes the situation has gotten so heated that they are simply craving love and safety. A toddler argument can sometimes be resolved by encouraging love and compassion. Whether you ask them to hug each other or you go in for an embrace, always ensure you’ve received their permission.
If you go in without warning, the toddler may react in an inappropriate way (ie: push, slap, scream). Especially during a tense moment, ask the child for their permission to give them a great, big hug. This may allow them to calm down and understand the situation a little bit better than before.
2 REMIND THEM WHAT THEY’RE FEELING IS OKAY
No matter which way you initially act during a toddler argument, it’s important to remind them that what they’re feeling is healthy, natural, and okay. It is important never to shame a child, especially during their “big feelings.” Big feelings will come and go within their lifetime. We continue to feel them well into adulthood; we just understand more how to redirect and apply them in healthy (at times) and productive ways.
Within the first three years of life, children are learning at an incredibly fast pace. It’s important to never shame their emotions and to encourage them to feel. They will appreciate the feeling of safety and encouragement. It will allow them to calm down faster than you may expect.
1 LET THEM GO
This may seem wild, but you will know the best approach when you see it. Sometimes, it is completely okay to allow the toddler(s) to go at it. Now, we’re not saying that you should allow it to escalate into a physical or verbally abusive argument, but sometimes it’s important for little ones to figure it out on their own.
They’re small people, don’t forget. And, as much as it’s important to guide them through life in the early stages, it is also important to encourage them to independently navigate a situation, especially when it’s between differing personalities. Again, use your judgment. Intervene when needed.